(INDIANAPOLIS) – Two Indianapolis legislators want Indiana to dip into pandemic relief money to target bad drivers.
After a five-year low in 2019, traffic deaths were up 8% in Indiana last year, paralleling a similar increase nationally. Democrats Blake Johnson and Mitch Gore suggest people got into bad habits during the pandemic when there were fewer cars on the road. And Gore, a Marion County Sheriff’s Department captain, says police departments have had to focus manpower on more serious crimes instead of traffic enforcement.
The two lawmakers are asking Governor Holcomb to tap up to $20 million in unspent money from the first federal pandemic relief bill to pay for police overtime.
Gore notes murders, in Indianapolis and in other big cities nationally, have also been climbing since the start of the pandemic. But he says reckless driving is a problem that’s both pressing and readily fixable. He argues a six-month enforcement blitz targeting speeding, texting while driving, and other moving violations would get drivers back in the habit of following the rules of the road.
Johnson and Gore also plan to introduce a bill in next year’s session to allow traffic enforcement cameras in school zones. Last week, an Indianapolis first-grader was run over and killed outside School 57, in Johnson’s district. A 12-year-old girl was struck and killed last month while waiting for her bus.
Traffic cameras have faced consistent and bipartisan opposition, but Johnson says he’s hopeful the combination of rising traffic deaths and limiting the bill to school zones will persuade legislators to reconsider. He says on some busy city streets, there are enough schools that the increased threat of a ticket will nudge people to watch their speed whether they’re in a school zone or not.